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My Rainbow Umbrella

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My Rainbow Umbrella

by Amalia Zeichnerin

 

California, May 2017

 

My buddy Rodrigo and I were sitting on my bed, watching the TV show Lip Sync Battle. The actor Tom Holland was on with a performance, starting with a stepdance homage to an old movie, in front of a painted old-fashioned scenery with some houses. The stage was lit in dark blue.

“Oh, that‘s very old school“, Rodrigo murmured while we observed how Tom–in a suit with a hat and umbrella danced past some opened umbrellas, moving his lips in-synch to Gene Kelly‘s I‘m singing in the rain.

Suddenly, after maybe twenty seconds, he suddenly vanished behind the stage. The next moment, the music changed and six male looking dancers appeared, wearing rain clothing made from a shiny black material, carrying umbrellas. Meanwhile, the painted scenery was lifted behind them, revealing just a dark wall with some light rectangular patterns.

I needed two, three seconds until I recognized Rihanna‘s song Umbrella. What was going to happen now? Tom came on stage in a confident pose as if he owned it, followed by several female looking dancers in revealing clothes who joined their colleagues.

Tom was now wearing a black corset, extremely short pants and half-transparent tights with a net pattern and a half-long black wig which reminded me of one of Rihanna‘s hairstyles. He also wore visual make-up, with signal red lips, and carried an umbrella again.

Tom used the following part not for a caricature of a woman, not for laughs from the audience. He danced with wholeheartedness, powerful, with abrupt, dynamic moves, shook his hips, twerked, swinging the umbrella with both hands away from himself. All in all it was quite seductive. I mean, I was ace and it didn‘t turn me on to watch him dance like that. But I found it quite attractive in an aesthetic way.

When Rihanna sang about rain, suddenly actual water poured down on him and the background dancers. What a cool effect! All of them kept dancing unflinchingly in this artificial rain. Tom really knew his moves, and I really had respect for him–especially in the end where he danced faster and finally jumped into a half Salto, landing flat on his back.

“Wow, cool!“, Rodrigo exclaimed. “He‘s got some killer moves.“ He punched me slightly into the side. “My dear Adrian, I bet you wouldn‘t dare to do such a performance.“

I swallowed. “Why not?“

Rodrigo laughed. “Do you wanna bet? Let the wager be a new computer game? A performance at the talent show at school? “ He held his hand out.

I looked at the screen. Tom Holland was now gone from stage, the audience still applauding. I looked at my buddy … and shook his hand.

 

Later, I sat alone in my room, my playlist changed to Same Love by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert.

Rodrigo had left for home. Fuck! Why had I agreed to this bet? What the hell had come over me?

Surely, Tom‘s performance was spectacular and by tomorrow or so, certainly there would be a video of it on YouTube.

The talent show at my high school was in four weeks. Still enough time to apply and prepare for the performance. But performing in front of the entire school in such an outfit? A small voice moved inside of me. Oh, Ady. You are asexual and genderqueer. You are neither man nor woman. You just didn‘t have the courage to tell anyone yet. And such a performance … wouldn‘t it show them who you really are?

That was the actual reason why I liked this performance of Tom so much, this game of feminine and masculine and something in between. But this evening, again, I hadn‘t dared to out myself in front of Rodrigo. Damn, he was my oldest friend. We had known each other since kindergarten. I had tried so often to tell him but every time the words got stuck in my mouth and didn‘t want to get out. Why was it so hard for me to out myself? Nobody knew. Not my sister, not my parents. And none of my friends either.

Of course, it was always a completely individual choice, when where and to whom someone outed themselves. I had read about that several times in social media and on queer websites. Personally, I had wanted to tell it at least Hirami and Rodrigo but so far, I just hadn‘t been able to.

Sometimes, I caught myself with the desire to go into the ladies‘ department of a clothing store. Yet I didn‘t dare to buy something pastel-colored or pink or something with a colorful pattern. The most colorful piece of clothing I owned was a Hawaii shirt that my aunt had brought back from a vacation there and had given me as a present for my birthday. But I never wore it to school. I didn‘t want to get bullied by guys from high school. So I had hidden myself for years in loose clothes, hoodies and more, in dark or muted colors. Black. Grey. Khaki. Just don’t attract attention. But I had had enough of that. My soul was withering away, at least it felt that way. Maybe this performance wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

 

***



After school was out the next day, I said goodbye to Rodrigo with a hug as always. He was in a hurry.

“Hey, Himari”, I turned to my friend who was putting her stuff in her schoolbag. Her family were descendants of Japanese immigrants.

“Can we talk, in private?“

“Making it suspenseful, aren‘t you? Sure.“

Together we strolled along the school‘s corridor and through the crowd of kids who were heading to the exit. Himari put a few things into her locker, then we moved on.

“I want to take part in the talent show“, I told her when we finally were outside. The sun was shining, and it was pleasantly warm.

Himari smiled. “I guess, with a hip hop performance?“
Since three years I was dancing hip hop in a group course at a dance school. The group members were a diverse mix and we had had a performance, but nothing big.

“Kind of, yeah. But it‘s a bit special. And I need help with the costume.“

She smirked. “I see. So you thought, let‘s ask Himari, she knows how to sew. Come on, tell me more.“

“Did you see Lip Sync Battle yesterday?“

“No, I was at my aunt‘s place. But Alice saw it and was totally excited because of Tom Holland. She said his performance was rad. He also won. But that‘s all I know so far.“

“Wait a minute, I‘ll look if I can find it on Youtube.“ I swiped over my cell phone and opened the Youtube app. As expected, there was already a clip of the performance and it had gotten several likes.

“Let‘s sit down for a moment“, Himari said and pointed to a bench in the front area of the school building.

Together, we watched the performance. My heart sank during this second viewing. Jeez, those were really killer moves, as Rodrigo had said. I could never do that!

“Wow, that‘s awesome“, Himari said when the clip ended. “And where is the connection to the talent show?“

“Rodrigo betted with me yesterday that I wouldn‘t dare to do a performance like that. And I agreed to the bet.“

Himari looked at me with gigantic eyes. “Wow. Well, in that case, have fun with rehearsals for that. That‘s a lot of work! And about the costume, no problem. I can help you with it. And I know at least one shop where you can get a wig like that.“

I hugged her. “Thanks! You‘re the best.“

“And do you want to perform alone? Maybe you could ask folks from your hip hop group if they would dance in the background?“

I shook my head. “No, I‘d rather do it on my own. It‘s tough enough. And the dance group … we are currently working on a new choreography, so I wouldn‘t want to ask if some of them would practice with me. And I guess, until we have agreed on dates when to meet and practice, the talent show might be already over.“

“Well, I can understand that. If you practice alone, you can find your own time for it. Also, you wouldn‘t have to worry about the costumes of others.“

I nodded. “I‘ve got a suit and a hat. At home, we also have a suitable umbrella.“

“Very good. Do you wanna come over to my place, so I can take measurements? Or some other time?“

“No, I‘ve got time now. We are having a warm lunch not until tonight when everyone is home. And I can do homework after that.“

Himari gave me a thumps-up. “Fine.“

***



Over the next weeks, I listened almost 24/7 to the track which I had edited with 20 seconds from Singing in the rain and a far longer piece of Umbrella. I also watched the video clip repeatedly, put it on freeze frames and scribbled notes about and drawings of Tom‘s moves.

I had also watched Rihanna‘s original video clip in which Jay-Z featured. But she danced differently than Tom, slowlier. So he had created his own choreography–or someone else had developed it for him. Rihanna‘s Umbrella was a very dynamic song with a concise rhythm–ideal for dancing, in any way.

One evening, as I was in the middle of practice, someone knocked at my door. Why now! I turned off the music and opened.

It was my sister Shelly. “Tell me… why are you constantly listening to these two songs? It jangles my nerves.“

“It‘s for the talent show at school.“

“Did you apply for that?“, she asked, yawning.

Shelly was neither interested in hip hop dance nor in the talent shows at school. In her eyes, both were boring, and she kept telling me so.

“Yes, I did and I would like to continue practicing now.“

“Show me.“

“No.“

“You‘re such a killjoy.“

I stayed tenaciously. “You can watch it at the talent show.“

“I will not go there. “

I shrugged my shoulders. “That‘s your problem, not mine.“

“Douchebag!“

I knew she didn‘t mean it that way; Shelly and I had these friendly banters all the time.

I closed the door and listened for Shelly to walk away. After that, I practiced once more. It felt so damn good to dance. It transferred me into a different world. When I moved to the beat, I wasn‘t shy and insecure, as so often in my everyday life.

Instead, I dreamed myself away a bit–and if it was only for the length of one song. I also felt differently. When I danced, I could be sensual or dynamic or sometimes even aggressive, depending on what the song laid out for me. When dancing, I also saw the respective stars a bit before my inner eye. Here, Rihanna–and Tom Holland.

My cousin did boxing, but that was no sport for me. There were more pleasant things in my eyes than to beat up people. When I had been a child, I had wanted to learn ballet. But the prospect of being ridiculed or bullied by folks because I wanted to learn a “girl‘s sport” had kept me from pursuing that.

Hip hop dance on the other hand was widely accepted among all genders and I liked the fast music and the grooves more than classical music in ballet.

For the talent show, I had just applied with “Hip hop solo dance “ with no further details, and the teacher in charge hadn‘t ask for any.

However, rehearsals weren‘t easy, I was never satisfied. If it hadn‘t been for the bet with Rodrigo, and if I hadn‘t told Himari about it all, maybe I would have quit.

A signal from my phone informed me about a text message. It was by Himari. Hey, Adi, your costume is ready!

A photo followed. The costume had several parts:
A black corset with a holder which was fixed to both sides in the front and covering the neck, while most of the back would be bare. The front of the corset was covered with a row of white buttons. Next, there was a pair of extremely short pants which had some white lace at the hem.

Then a cummerbund instead of a belt which had a white backside and was black at the front. Himari had also made two loose wristbands with white lace and had bought dark fishnet tights.


Looks rad, I wrote back. Thanks!



I can give it to you tomorrow at school, okay?



Perfect.



Suddenly, cold sweat crept over my skin. I felt torn. The costume really looked awesome. It was sexy, but not too much. However, it was kind of daring for a school‘s talent show. Would I even have the courage to get on stage wearing that? Wouldn‘t folks laugh at me or even worse, drive me off stage, booing?

In the hip hop group, all of us wore loose, comfy clothes, for instance hoodies. I had never performed in such tight-fitting clothes. I realized that I would have to practice my performance wearing the costume.

I thought about the actor who had dared to perform in such clothes on the stage of Lip Sync Battle. If he could, why shouldn‘t I be able to do it?

A nasty inner voice piped up. Don‘t delude yourself, Adrian. Tom Holland is already 21 and has had a lot more training than you. He has even danced in the musical Billy Eliott.

I had read that on the Wikipedia site of the actor. And me? I was still in high school and had been dancing only for three years so far. That stupid bet!



***



I was standing in my room, looking at myself in the mirror which was fastened to my wardrobe. I had put on the costume which Himari had brought for me to school. All of it fit quite well. She really had done a good job. The half-transparent nylon tights with the fishnet pattern covered my legs almost like silk. I would have to shave my legs though because the hair would prick through the fabric of the tights.

Carefully, I took off the pants and then the tights. After that, I put on the pants again and turned the music on. This time, I used the mirror to observe my moves and to get an idea about how I would look. I did a full run with the umbrella. Astonishly, it went well with the costume, but I felt strange in the unfamiliar clothes.

I left out the jump into half a Salto at the end, as I was worrying a bit about the costume. When the music ended, my mirror image stared at me. I don‘t know anyone who looks into a mirror and finds themselves hot. At least, no one ever has admitted something like that to me. And that was how I felt now, too. I could cover up the acne in my face with make-up, which was kind of a comfort. I wished I would have been more muscular. Or slimmer. I wasn‘t fat, but my body didn‘t have an ideal shape.

Himari had asked me to send her a photo of myself wearing the costume. I knew I could trust her. She wouldn‘t show it to anyone, wouldn‘t upload it anywhere. But the problem was: I didn‘t dare to take a selfie. I felt so strangely exposed in that costume.

I could dance well with it, it covered me like a second skin, but the feeling was strange. Like swimming; just wearing trunks, with naked legs and torso… to me, that was terrifying, every summer. Well, at least this costume covered more of my body, at least when I also counted the tights as a part of it.

A sudden knock on my door stopped my train of thought. Hastily I took the wig off which Himari had bought for me after I had given her the money.

“What is it?“, I exclaimed.

“Open, honey”, my mum said. “I have some bed linen for you.”

“One second.“ In a rush, I covered myself up with my bathrobe which had been hanging on the hook on my wardrobe. Fortunately, I had also taken of the tights.

I opened and my mum came in with the laundry basket. She took some bed sheets and gave them to me. When I took them, she gave me a surprised glance. “What are you wearing?“

I look down at myself. Shit. In the hurry I had been in, I hadn‘t fastened the belt of the bathrobe and the front sides were open so that parts of the corset, cummerbund and pants were visible.

“I … I …“ I was lost for words. “It‘s a cosplay“, I finally stammered. “Himari helped me with it.“

“Since when are you doing cosplay? And why are these pants so… short?“

“That‘s the way they are supposed to be“, I answered hastily. “But I am going to wear black tights. It‘s for an anime character.“

She raised her eyebrows. “I see. Is Himari now into cosplay, too?“

“Yes“, I claimed, although that wasn‘t true. But at least Himari liked animes and read mangas, often the Japanese original–for which I envied her a bit.

“Well, I am happy that the two of you have a new hobby“, Mum replied. “And really wear something under those pants, they are way too short.“

“Yeah, I am going to do that.“

Wow, saved by the bell. But now I had another problem–a made-up hobby for Himari and myself. Fortunately, Mum and Himari‘s parents weren‘t close, so I guessed she wouldn‘t tell them about us cosplaying.



Have you tried it on yet?, Himari texted.



Yes, it fits really well, I wrote back.



Selfie, please.



I don‘t dare to. I added the emoticon of the monkey, who held his hands before his eyes.



I won‘t show anyone, I promise. We agreed on that.



I‘ll show it to you when you come over, okay? And the performance.



Deal! Himari gifted me with a smiley.



***



“Wow, that‘s hot“, Himari said without any further a-do, when she came over two days later and I had put on the costume again. Allegedly, she was here because we wanted to practice for a test, at least that was what I had told my mum.

“But I don‘t feel hot. This rather looks like a muffin top.“

“That‘s not true, it‘s very suitable for your body shape.“

“But it doesn‘t feel that way“, I insisted.

She shrugged her shoulders. “That‘s not my fault. How does it feel when you are dancing?“

“Better. When I don‘t look into the mirror.“

“Well, in that case–do you wanna show me?“

“Okay. But don‘t laugh“, I begged of her.

“Hell, no. I won‘t.“

At first, all went well, but then the black umbrella broke; the plastic handle came off from the shaft. Now the whole umbrella wasn‘t usable anymore.

“Oh, shit!“, I exclaimed, annoyed. “It‘s old, but I hoped it would last one or two years longer. What do you think, maybe superglue might help?“

“Let me take a look.“ Himari bent over the umbrella. “No, I don‘t think so. It would come off again. I hope you won‘t get into trouble with your parents.“

“No. They know how old that umbrella is.“

“And how are you going to explain to them that the umbrella broke in a rainless summer like this?“

I thought about that for a few seconds. “I could say, it was lying in my room and by accident, I sat on it? I like sitting with crossed legs on the floor sometimes.“

Himari looked at the umbrella once more. “Well… yes, that might work.“

She smiled. “Hey, what do you think about going to the mall, eating some ice-cream and looking for a new umbrella for you?“

I shook my head. “Haven‘t got any pocket money left for this month.“

“No problem, I can lend you some.“



At the mall, both of us had an enormous cup of ice-cream. The sweetness of the ice-cream and the sourness of the fruit exploded on my tongue. For a moment, I closed my eyes, enjoying the delicious taste.

Himari nudged me. “Foodgasm?“

“You can say that again“, I replied with a smirk.

The ripple of the small fountain in the middle of the mall reminded me of trips to the ocean. Where I would have loved to be now, but it was still some time until the summer holidays.

We found a shop that sold umbrellas. However, most of them were small compact ones which fit into handbags. There were also some of the classical long shape as I needed, but none of those were black. Instead, there was one glowing in rainbow colors.

“I am going to take this one“, I said determined. “If you could lend me the money?“

Himari looked at the price tag and then into her purse. “Yes, I can. But don‘t you find it a bit too colorful for your performance?“

I needed more color in my life. “Nope, this one is just fine“, I replied casually.



***



Finally, the big day was here; the Friday evening when the talent show was on. Hirami and Rodrigo crossed their fingers for me when we walked towards the assembly hall. My parents were busy; my father was on a business trip and Mum was working late at the hospital. And Shelly was too cool to cheer her younger sibling at a talent show. But to be honest, I was glad about it. If I made a fool of myself with that performance, at least it would only be in front of the school and not my family.

Before me, there were other students with various performances; some sang, one showed some acrobatics with a unicycle, and a small band played a song they had written on their own.

Nervously, I strolled around the corridor behind the assembly hall. Hirami and Rodrigo were already backstage. They were going to assist me with a detail of my performance. But I just had to be alone for some minutes. A wave of nausea rushed through my stomach. Damned stage fright!

A teacher came from the area behind the stage and walked towards me. “You‘re on soon, Adrian. Don‘t you have to change?“

“Yeah, I‘ll do that.“ I fought the nauseous feeling. Deep breaths. Maybe that would help a bit. In the backstage room, there were several students who also performed at the talent show. Hell, no, I didn‘t want to change here, not in front of all the others. Hirami and Rodrigo sat on an old sofa, chatting with each other. I went over to them. “I am going to change in the restroom, I prefer it that way.“

Hirami nodded. I grabbed the bag with my costume.

At our school, there was no unisex-restroom, but at least there was one for folks with disabilities on the first floor. I wouldn‘t get more privacy this evening than there. I shut the door behind me and pressed the button for Occupied. In a hurry, I put on both costumes: corset, cummerbund, tights, pants and then the suit with the longer pant legs. Next, I took the makeup from the small wash bag: makeup foundation, mascara, eyeliner. I had seen several makeup tutorials and had learned a bit from them. Finally, the red lipstick. So far, I had only put on makeup secretly or for Halloween.

Then, the wig. With a skeptical look into the mirror, I pulled the black hat further down over my face. Perfect–my red lips could still be seen, but my eyes vanished in the shadows beneath the brim of the hat.

“You look great“, Hirami said approvingly when I returned to the backstage room. Great looks wouldn‘t get me far though. Now I needed all the confidence I could muster. And I hoped I wouldn‘t make any mistakes.

At least the nausea was almost gone. Instead, adrenaline pulsed through my body. I hadn‘t brought the edited track because I didn‘t know how long exactly I would need for the costume change after Singing in the Rain.

Instead, I had given the student who was in charge for the music Singing in the Rain as an mp3 and the album of Rihanna, in which Umbrella was the first track.

“Break a leg.“ Rodrigo said with a grin.

“No, I‘ll pass“, I smirked.



A few minutes later it was my turn. Once more, I pulled my hat further down over my face and ran onto the stage, into the glowing limelight. This was a blessing because the spotlights blinded me so much I could scarcely see the audience.

Now the beginning of Singing in the Rain was on and I opened the rainbow umbrella. The audience was silent. Was that a good or a bad sign? I moved my lips in-sync to the song, did a bit of stepdancing–not one of my strong points, but fortunately that wasn‘t the primary focus of my performance.

My heart beat like a drum when I left the stage. A tentative applause accompanied my exit. Hirami stood in the backstage space, already waiting for me. She seized my hat. I took off the jacket. I kept on the black flats–these got tangled up in the long pant legs.

Shit! “Wait “, I signalled to the student who was in charge of the music. Hirami helped me, but precious seconds were gone until we had managed to get me out of the long pants. Certainly the audience was growing impatient. Drops of sweat ran over my forehead.

I grabbed the rainbow umbrella. I was ready. The student stared at me as if he had seen a ghost. I raised one hand and told him, “You can start track two.“

When I returned to the stage, Push Up On Me started.

Shit, you gotta be kidding me! It was the wrong song, the second on Rihanna‘s album Good Girl Gone Bad. Maybe that was why the mix-up had happened.

“Not that one! Umbrella!“, I yelled toward the backstage area.

A few laughs in the audience. My heart sank. Fuck! The mishap. My outfit. Oh dear, they would all laugh at me. They would bully me until the end of high school. The crazy kid who had believed they could perform as well as Tom Holland and in addition, in a revealing costume which was surely read as feminine by most of them.

Shit, shit, shit! Warmth crept into my face, surely I was turning red from all the embarrassment. I should run off stage before all of this would get even more mortifying!

In this moment, Umbrella started. I took a deep breath… and stayed on stage. Now, the years of dancing in the hip hop group helped me. I had rehearsed this performance so often; it had become my second nature. Automatically I made the first, rather slow movements and half a minute later everything else was gone. The stage fright. The worries they would laugh at me or ridicule me. Damn it, I had rehearsed for hours and days and I would not louse this dance up. I didn‘t give a damn on the reactions. I didn‘t even mind the bet with Rodrigo.

Suddenly, I wasn‘t the shy high school student any longer, but a dancer. And for the first time since months I felt comfortable with my genderqueerness.

One part of the performance I had created myself. At Lip Sync Battle, Tom Holland had danced in front of his battle-opponent Zendaya for some seconds as she was watching his performance from near the stage.

I had nobody to dance in front of, so instead, I opened the rainbow umbrella, spun around for a moment with it, swung it this way and that until I closed it again and resumed with the rest of the dance.

Then, the moment arrived in which Rihanna sang directly about rain. Of course, I couldn‘t pour water down the stage – the principal would have kicked me out of school.

Instead, I had come up with another plan with the help of Hirami and Rodrigo.

In the middle of the stage, I swung my arms wide to the sides in an abrupt gesture, my neck bent backwards. In this moment, a sparkling rain of glitter confetti went down on me. Colorful light danced in front of my eyes. Rodrigo and Hirami, who were left and right next to the stage shot with confetti cannons at me, which had a range of several metres.

In the audience, I could hear an enthusiastic “Whoo-hoo!” and a loud “Yeah!“. Some confetti flew into my left eye, but I could shake it off. But it was all over me. Now, there was applause, growing louder. I couldn‘t believe it. But I didn‘t have the time to think about it because now the most difficult parts of the performance were on. Coordination, strength and a strong feeling for rhythm were necessary now even more than before.

But at that point, I was really lucky; the music and applause spurred me, and all the rehearsals of the last weeks made an impact. With fast, dynamic moves I swirled to the grooves, hit the dance floor with a fist and almost lost my balance in a spin because of the slippery glittering confetti on the floor.

Finally the end–I had only practiced it once on the hard floor and damn, how much had it hurt. I jumped into half a Salto forward and crashed backwords on my back, just as planned. It hurt, but it was worth it. Panting, I lay there for a few seconds, my arms spread wide. The music stopped.

Applause answered me, growing louder again, some cheers in the audience. I picked myself up, blinking into the spotlights. Then I took a deep bow.

Behind the stage, Hirami hugged me and Rodrigo also came over to us.

“Man, that was awesome!“, he exclaimed.

I am not a man; I wanted to reply. But there was time for that later.

Hirami beamed at me. “It has been worthwhile, all that training.”

“I was so afraid that I wouldn‘t be able to pull it off”, I blurted. “Or that they would all laugh at me.”

“Well, show me anyone who would laugh at that. They shouldn‘t come close to me!“, Rodrigo said with a playful grin. Then he got serious again. “You won the bet. So very much. That means we can go shopping soon and I‘m paying.”

“Yeah!“, I exclaimed. “I‘m gonna change. Shall we go to Ellis‘ Diner after the show, what do you think?”

“Sure. We had agreed on that.”

So half an hour later, we sat in our favorite diner, which was in the neighbourhood of school and frequently had students as customers. We had spent a lot of pocket money here so far.

Rodrigo looked at me. “There‘s glitter confetti in your hair.”

“Oh. But I had the wig on.”

“Maybe it went from there to your hair.” He raised one hand. “May I?”

I nodded, and he plucked the confetti from my hair.

Now, after the performance, I felt a pleasant kind of satisfaction. It was a rad feeling to get applause. Especially when you had expected laughter and shouts of “Boo!”, like I had.

I looked up from my milkshake and into the faces of Rodrigo and Hirami. And suddenly, it dawned on me I didn‘t have to be afraid. I could trust them.

“Listen, there‘s something I‘ve been meaning to tell you for a while now…”

Both of them looked at me attentively, with an expression of openness.

I took a deep breath. “I‘m ace.” With this first attempt, I couldn‘t go further.

Rodrigo nodded. “I thought so.”

I stared at him. “Really?”

“Well, you know… you always get so monosyllabic when sex comes up in a conversation. And you never talked about if there is someone you really like and sex has never been something you seemed interested in, either.”

I guessed I could be read like an open book. At least, Rodrigo could.

“Well, as we are already talking about it“, I said more casual than I felt. “I‘m also genderqueer. And my pronoun is they.” Finally. It was quite a relief to talk about it, after all that time.

“Okay“, Hirami said.

Rodrigo held his hand out to me. “Alright.“ Our personal “Give me five“-game followed, which we had been playing almost as long as we had known each other.

“Is that all?“, I asked confused.

Rodrigo grinned. “What did you expect, Ady? That we‘d run off screaming? Hey, we have been friends since playing in the sand-box and that doesn‘t change just because you are queer.“

“Exactly“, Hirami commented and hugged me. “By the way, do you want to change your name, too?“, she asked after that.

I shook my head. “No, Ady and Adrian are okay for me.“

I seized the rainbow umbrella and spun it around in my hand for a while, lost in thought. A group of students passed us. Involuntarily, I went tense.

“Hey, your performance was cool“, one of them said with a grin, holding his hand out to me. Confused, I gave him five. “Wasn‘t that a copy of Lip Sync Battle?“

“Yeah. Tom Holland.“

“That was lit“, he said approvingly and turned back to his friends.

Hirami grinned when he was gone. “See? You rocked that, Ady.“

“When I tell this to the folks from my dance group, nobody will believe me“, I said.

“I told Jerry he should record it. He just sent me the video“, Rodrigo said and pointed at his phone.

Some parts of the video were a bit wiggly, but most of it was focussed. I looked at it. Two-and-a-half minutes and I noticed every minor mistake. But that didn‘t matter. It hadn‘t been a battle, not a competition. I had tried hard. This evening, I was really proud I hadn‘t run off stage… and that I had outed myself. It wouldn‘t be the last time, far from. But it had been a good start.

I looked down at the rainbow umbrella. I really needed more colors in my life. And I was going to start with the pride colors of ace and genderqueer folks.